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The sailing competition season is ending in Hawaii. Although the temperatures drop only a few degrees, the winter season brings different weather patterns to the islands.
During the summer, winds are more predictable and vary only slightly. Most days are OK for sailing, although some have better wind than others. But during the winter, the winds are too high many days to safely set sail. For locals, the weekly races conclude until spring and many sailors haul their boats out for repair over the winter. For visitors, the seasonal change means you may not have the same experience as friends whose trip fell during summer months.
If you plan to sail to see the Hawaii coastline, or snorkel, or watch for whales, you will need to be flexible if the weather does not follow your itinerary. Be prepared to substitute a land-based activity at the last minute if the skipper decides the day is not suited to sailing. Also, some shoreline activities vary, especially on the North Shore of all of the islands. Winter North Shore surfing is for the experienced – it makes for great watching but not great learning – and surf lessons better on the southern shores. Snorkeling in Hawaii during the winter is also best along the southern shores or protected bays; the North Shore offers better snorkeling during the summer.
This summer, Rick and I completed our first season of sailing his boat, Tala, in bi-weekly races around Kaneohe Bay. Our last race was a week ago. This weekend, much younger (and better) sailors took a final spin around the bay. The Hawaii Youth Sailing Association sponsors a series of races throughout the summer. Some of the boys and girls begin sailing on their own at the age of 7 or 8. By the time they finish high school, they’re seasoned pros.
Locals do sail throughout the winter, but organized activities conclude because it is necessary to make the decision whether to sail on a day-of basis. Similarly, tour operators do not suspend operations, but some change routes or departure points and also decide each day whether or not it is a sail day.